What’s The Best Medication for Anxiety?
I find myself pacing back and forth in the kitchen. My mind is running so fast that I can’t make sense of my thoughts.
Time to pour another drink. That will take the edge off. Right?
I continue to pace, resting my drink on the pool table in the living room.
The only way I can keep my focus outside of these thoughts is shooting- and well, taking a sip of this drink.
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I’ve been here so many times before.
The only relief I can find is through totally immersing myself into a mind numbing activity and drinking away what’s left.
Does this sound familiar? If it does, you’ve also likely asked your doctor for the best medication for anxiety.
How else can we stop this cascade of debilitating thoughts?
The more I reflect back on these really difficult times, the more I come to realize that I’m not alone.
Anxiety Attack Symptoms Are Unique
Anxiety disorders are very common and can impact our lives significantly.
They can manifest themselves in general anxiety or panic attacks.
They also can have more specific symptoms that can qualify them as PTSD, OCD, Social Anxiety, and other disorders.
Each disorder has various treatment approaches.
Compound that with each person having different needs and strengths, we can then agree there is no “one size fits all” treatment.
Using workbooks like The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook are great examples of how your specific needs and strengths differ from others.
Using workbooks like this will help you identify the root of your anxieties which will enhance medication effectiveness.
So what works for your anxiety disorder may not work for another person.
Rather than relying upon just one medication and solution, we must evaluate the available treatment options with our doctor and therapist.
Treatment Using Medication for an Anxiety Disorder
Using medication for anxiety is quite often necessary to help reduce symptoms so that we can gain quality of life.
Despite its sometimes critical need, there is often a misconception of how much medication will really help you.
Let’s break down some of the various medications out there that could be used to help you.
Benzodiazepines List The Most Well Known Medications for Anxiety
When someone is seeking medication for acute anxiety attacks, they usually are thinking of benzodiazepines.
Common brand name medications in this class include Ativan, Xanax, Klonopin, and Valium.
The benzodiazepine list of medications is much longer; there are also various uses for these medications outside of just anxiety.
So a person using one of these medications may have an unrelated condition. Don’t assume!
These medications are generally sought because they are quick acting.
Following ingestion, effects are felt within minutes. Therefore, they are very helpful for rescue should anxiety become very extreme.
Benzodiazepine Side Effects
There are benzodiazepine side effects, however. Common side effects include drowsiness, dizziness, or depression.
There are some studies that also suggest that long term use of benzodiazepines can cause dementia.
In addition to the possible side effects, there are added complications to their use.
As these medications create a quick calming effect, they are considered to be addictive.
If you are taking a benzodiazepine for an extended period of time, you likely will develop a tolerance to it.
That is, your body becomes dependent upon it. With tolerance comes the possibility of an anxiety flare up if you miss a dose.
In fact, it’s unlikely that it’s actually your anxiety flaring up. What’s more likely is you’re having benzodiazepine withdrawal.
Be sure to follow your prescription exactly as ordered by your doctor and discuss its long-term use.
Keep your doctor aware of any other drugs you are using.
Medication for Anxiety with Other Uses
Due to the addictive quality and withdrawal concerns of benzodiazepines, it is fairly common for doctors to prescribe medications whose primary use may not be specific to anxiety.
Now, it would be extensive to write about every medication that can be used for anxiety that’s non-addictive. However, I will briefly review some of the most common.
Neurontin or gabapentin as the generic is labeled, is a very common medication for anxiety disorders. I wanted to start with this med as some states are beginning to restrict its use.
It just recently became a controlled substance in Michigan, which may well move to other states.
If you are still taking it for anxiety, you’re one of the few.
Antihistamines for Anxiety
There are several antihistamines that are used for anxiety including Vistaril (hydroxyzine) and Benadryl (diphenhydramine). You may find some of this medication for anxiety over the counter.
I do caution you, however, and speak with your doctor before loading up on antihistamines.
New Antidepressants: SSRIs and SNRIs
Some of the best medications for depression are SSRIs and SNRIs. These classified as antidepressant medication.
They really are the new antidepressants, which have come out of the development of Prozac.
Despite their original use,antidepressants can be used for anxiety disorders.
In fact, there is a lot of evidence that suggests that these new antidepressants are the best medications to use for anxiety and depression.
Most folks who have been on antidepressants for some time continue to function very well. They identify a decrease in their anxiety and depression.
In evaluating an SSRI vs SNRI, there is some minor differences that your provider will likely review with you.
SSRI stands for Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor, which means that the medication helps serotonin (a happy neurotransmitter) build up in your brain.
On the other hand, SNRI stands for Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitor, which means that it is causing the build up of both neurotransmitters in your brain.
One of the commonly reported downsides of using antidepressant medications for treating anxiety disorders is the time it takes to really work.
As these medications facilitate the buildup of neurotransmitters, they can take between 4-6 weeks before any significant effects are felt. This is due to the half-life of the medications and synapse saturation.
Other Medications for Treating Anxiety
One common medication that does not fall under the umbrella of a benzodiazepine or medication with other uses is Buspar (buspirone).
This medication is uniquely for anxiety disorders and is non-addictive.
Like antidepressants, Buspar can take some time to really begin working.
However, it is a good option for someone who may not be in need of adding an antidepressant.
There are certainly more medications available to your doctor in treating an anxiety disorder including beta blockers, hypertension medications, and more.
As indicated earlier, there are more medications for anxiety over the counter- including supplements online.
As an example, one of the best supplements for anxiety is LES Lab’s Mood Boost because of its natural formulation. This supplement is incredibly effective for most people, because it promotes mood enhancement along the same pathways as antidepressants!
It’s definitely worth giving it a shot!
However, treatment is often not successful using medication alone.
I cannot emphasize this enough. It is important to speak with your provider about questions and concerns you have about your medications and symptoms.
Do not make changes to your medications without consulting your provider.
The Use of Other Forms of Treatment for Anxiety Disorders
In review of the best medications for anxiety, it is also important to include other forms of treatment. Even two people with the same diagnosis will have two different treatment plans and responses to medication.
Therapy to Treat Anxiety and Panic
Psychotherapy is one of the best alternative treatments you can get. Anxiety is often a result of bothersome thoughts just below the surface of our awareness.
A therapist can help you identify those thoughts so as to stop the anxiety at its root.
In my experience, therapy was initially helpful to simply vent. That can be therapeutic, but you aren’t going to make any extended progress simply doing that.
And let’s face it, if that’s all therapy was, is it worth paying money for a service your friend could do?
The real gains come from therapy when you actively work your treatment plan.
You must identify with your therapist the goal for your therapy and follow through each day with the homework given to you.
Don’t let therapy scare you because you’re afraid to talk about past traumas. Contemporary psychotherapy does not delve very deep into your history.
You will be addressing how your thoughts and feelings, resulting from those traumas, are affecting you now.
That is a whole new angle to help you achieve success without breaking open old wounds.
Get a glimpse of My Therapy Companion as a way to really promote growth in therapy!
Psychotherapy Complements Medication
Therapy can be very difficult in its own right. There are some who benefit very much from this form of treatment alone.
However, the use of medication may be necessary to get the most out of therapy.
The reason being is that when symptoms are quite extreme, it can be very difficult to effectively participate in therapy.
Anxiety and depression can debilitate your ability to socialize, think, and problem solve.
There is no happy pill. Antidepressant medications are just that- anti depression. They simply raise the floor, which improves functioning.
This is the same even when the antidepressant is for anxiety.
Outside of therapy, you can find fantastic ways to self-soothe.
For example, there is tremendous research and customer feedback that shows weighted blankets can have an incredible effect on reducing anxiety by calming the nervous system from sensory arousal.
Do you have insomnia also? Weighted blankets can help that too! What an easy solution to try!
Genesight Testing and Finding the Best Medication for Anxiety
We live in a very cool time. Science has helped us develop the technology to test how our genes respond to medications for anxiety and depression.
The old days of trial and error in psychiatry can be drastically improved. As an example, Genesight Testing can help us determine whether you’d benefit more from an SSRI vs SNRI.
They can help your provider determine specific medications and how your genes will respond to them.
This report does much beyond simply informing your provider what medications may be helpful. The report breaks down medications that likely will require dose adjustments and have more significant side effects.
The results cannot be guaranteed, however.
The importance is providing guidance for medications that have a high probability of working.
Genesight Testing and Psychotherapy
The role of therapy in tandem with Genesight Testing has the potential to be incredibly powerful.
With specific medications identified as most likely to work, that figurative floor can be quickly raised.
Science has not just brought us the vast implications of genetic testing.
If you have treatment resistant depression, there is now a new antidepressant medication recently released that is highly effective but controversial. It is developed from ketamine!
This nasal spray does not have a tremendous amount of patient input yet.
However, it will be very interesting to see how it begins to help those struggling with depression.
The Best Medication for Beating Anxiety
Whether you have depression, anxiety, or another mental illness, you likely have found that there is no quick fix.
Mental illness can be devastating to the individual and their loved ones.
It takes hard work to get better. You must work every single day on improving your well being and quality of life.
Whether that’s through formal therapy, peer groups, or self-help books, personal improvement doesn’t happen while sitting in neutral.
Through my recovery, this was a hard lesson to learn. It was tough enough to show up to therapy; but I also have to actively participate?
What’s more is that I did my best to take my medications as prescribed every day. Each time I took a pill, I tried to imagine myself getting better just a little bit more.
That perspective may be OK to a degree, but what is absolutely necessary to know, is that medication isn’t everything.
Therapy isn’t everything.
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The Best Treatment for Anxiety
These are two different approaches for symptoms. Mental health treatment is really a form of palliative care.
That is, whether through medications or therapy, providers are treating symptoms.
Over the years, I’ve worked with several psychiatrists. They all will tell you that diagnosis is important to get right; however, every person is different.
Your panic attack symptoms are different than another’s.
Therefore, they are really evaluating symptoms and medications to give you relief.
So, let’s answer the question of this post. What is the best medication for anxiety?
There isn’t one.
Treatment is a combination of medications, therapy, and self help. The weight of each category is different for each person.
When you meet with a provider, they are providing personalized treatment to you. Embrace this therapeutic relationship. And embrace each day as a stepping stone to your recovery.
Anxiety, depression, and other mental illness do not define who you are. A diagnosis is a name for a cluster of symptoms to help clinicians communicate accurately.
As you wake up tomorrow and take action in overcoming your mental health, treat yourself as the individual that your treatment team does.